By 2030, the WHO estimates that the four major potentially fatal respiratory diseases (pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung cancer and COPD) will account for about one in five deaths worldwide, compared to one- sixth of all deaths globally in 2008. Within the WHO European Region, the proportion is expected to remain stable at about one-tenth of all deaths, with an increase in COPD and lung cancer deaths balancing a decline in deaths from lower respiratory infections and tuberculosis (tables 3 and 4).
Although asthma causes few deaths, it is an important cause of disability. There are no well-informed projections of the future burden of asthma, but in many European countries the prevalence of childhood wheezing increased between the late 1990s and the early 2000s, as measured by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). Whether these trends continue, or are matched in older age-groups, is uncertain.
Respiratory diseases are therefore likely to remain a major burden on European societies for decades to come. Both the prevention and treatment of lung diseases will need to be improved if their impact on longevity and quality of life of individuals, and their economic burden on society, are to be reduced in Europe and worldwide.